Gilmer County School System Makes Progress to Upgrade Accreditation Status

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By all accounts, Gilmer County Charter School System (GCCSS) is making steady progress toward improving their “accredited warned” status with AdvancEd/SACS (Southern Association of Colleges And Schools).SACS contacted the district after complaints of misconduct were received from numerous sources. The accreditation organization conducted a full investigation and identified 3 problem areas which are conveniently summarized within a comprehensive “External Review” report here:

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS: Evidence revealed that although policies are in place, board members have demonstrated a failure to comply with policies, procedures, laws and regulations. They are not functioning as a cohesive unit for the benefit of student learning. In addition, board members have failed to protect, support and respect the autonomy of the system leadership to accomplish goals for improvement in student learning and to manage day-to-day operations of the system and its schools.

FYN conducted interviews with district officials in order to ascertain what progress is being made, and an expected time frame of when the system’s full accreditation status will be restored.

Georgia State AdvancED Director, Dr. Mike Bryons spoke with FYN by phone.

Bryons explained that a “review and monitoring team” had been assigned to the school system and determined the focus of the trainings. The team is lead by an evaluator and accompanied by two monitors.

He reviewed the possible status definitions indicating a district’s performance. They are, (in order deteriorating compliance):

Accreditation Advised
Warned Status (Current GCCSS rating)
Accredited probation

Byrons said that, before December 15, 2014, the school must “host a follow up visit.”

By that date, the district must also submit a progress report detailing the activities that took place in order to address problem areas. Such a report must include carefully recorded documentation of all efforts.

During the hosted tour, the monitoring team can elect to interview citizens, parents, board members, and employees in order to ensure accreditation goals are being followed and to measure progress.

When FYN asked School Superintendent Jason Kouns how the process was going he responded in an e-mail:

The Gilmer County Charter School System Board of Education, has taken
the AdvancEd documentation to task, and our charge will be a
rectification that benefits the students and system at large.
As weekly meetings have been scheduled each Monday for the sole
purpose of speaking to resolutions and plans of progression, the GCCSS
BOE has participated in numerous training sessions with lead personnel
from Georgia School Board Association, AdvancED, and possible
facilitators, entrusted in aiding us through this stringent process.
We will continue to work on behalf of the entire school system, and
the community as a whole, to become the most sound advisory body
This is a challenge, but our children, and their future, is absolutely
worth the effort.

School board President James Waters spoke with FYN by phone

Waters said that the school board had been meeting with Mike Bryons on a weekly basis (Monday evenings) in order to receive training on board governance and conflict resolution.

Waters said the meetings were helpful and that the group “made a lot of progress.”

When asked how many meeting would be scheduled Waters replied: “As many as it takes.”

Waters said of the current board:

“We haven’t had any conflicts. We have known each other well- all our lives.”

The entire external review report can be viewed here:

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